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Before Machines
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Before Machines, Silhouette
Belfast city centre has always been a no-man's land for live music. The scene rules supreme south of city hall, so it's a pleasant surprise to see a mid week gig in White's Tavern's upstairs room pull in anything upwards of zero punters on a caul, wet January night.

Silhouette are first on, a stripped down show with front-woman Shauna Tohill kicking off her shoes and settling down behind the keys, before letting rip with her ever impressive lungs. The sound is crystal clear, with the engineers squeezing everything out of the PA, the results putting several custom built sets to shame.

Shauna's endearingly goofy stage presence provides an interesting counterpoint to the Sturm und Drang of Silhouette's songs, as she introduces newbie 'Foxes' with a tale about how she wants to run off to live with the foxes, but is afraid that she'd get ate. A cover of Katy Perry's 'Hot and Cold' goes awry, complete with an improvised verse of "I've forgotten the words, forgotten the words".

Still, despite Shauna's best efforts, sections of the crowd lose interest and drift into the usual support band accompaniment of inane chatter. 'Volume Destroyed' is - as always - a clear display of Silhouette's crossover potential, but it is wasted on the crowd.

Maybe it's the audience - it's tough sharing a bill with the musically aggressive nous of Before Machines. It's been a while since the band first shuffled onto the scene, emerging from the ashes of Jedi Jane and the Cocaine Collision. Ditching the daft moniker and taking things far more seriously, Before Machines have been quietly crafting their art, while other, less worthy bands hog the limelight.

The music is essentially post-hardcore, but without the stigma that label may attract. The energy on stage is compelling, violent, yet controlled, with guitar necks barely missing bandmate's heads, a tangled cord leading to a frankly unnecessary Human Centipede reference.

And like that movie the music pulls no punches, heavy enough to keep the dude with the AC/DC t-shirt's head rocking, melodic enough to hum along with, and with just the right amount of tangential instrumentation.

Before Machines are undoubtedly a product of the current scene, but their main strength lies in the fact that they've managed to find their own voice in these post ASIFYFA days - not content to rush through the door that's been kicked in, they make their own way. The music comes across as loose improvisation, but is clearly the result of four musicians who've worked their proverbial backside off, the product of many hours in the rehearsal room.

Never one of the 'glory' bands, Before Machines never really got the festival gigs, the sweet supports or any of the hype. Maybe that's for the best. We'll need someone around when we finally fail to see the Emperor's new clothes.

Shane Horan

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Gig Details
Venue: Whites Tavern
Location: Belfast
Date: 13/1/2011

Related Links
+ Before Machines
+ Silhouette